To slow the spread of COVID-19 and maintain social distancing, students and educators today have found ways to adjust to remote learning. This quick transition has led to many challenges; a new normal has begun to emerge.
To what extent schools will remain locked is still obscure; thus, remote learning needs to proceed in some structure, maybe until the year’s end. As institutions plan for this future, issues including the insurance of data protection are of utmost importance.
There are various steps that every institution needs to consider if they want to set up an effective remote learning environment while keeping students safe from cybercriminals. These include:
Provide Strong Authentication: With improvements in hardware processing power, cracking passwords can be done within seconds. This is the reason why there are a ton of stolen credentials for sale on the dark web, with more value-added every day. Therefore, it is essential to enforce strong password policies and account lockout after failed attempts to prevent password guessing to restrict it from the misapplication of stolen passwords.
Protecting Web Applications: Next to stealing credentials, exploiting vulnerabilities in applications is the easiest way for an attacker to breach a network. It would be best if you scan external sites for security flaws. Moreover, it is vital to encrypt the traffic between your learning systems and your users, whether faculty, students, or administrators, so information cannot be stolen in transit.
Manage third-party risk: The third-party technologies that institutions use in their online learning environments can pose additional vulnerabilities and risks to the enterprise network. Whether it is a learning management system or a teleconferencing tool, you need to ensure that you perform a thorough security evaluation of the vendor and their products before applying them to the main network.
Monitor Malicious Activities: Organizations that are new to implementing remote learning will have a significant increase in external network traffic connecting to their networks. The security department needs to be aware of any unusual login attempts or other behaviors that seem out of the norm.
Knowledge is the Power in Protecting against Adversaries: At least, the faculty and the students should know how to:
- Secure the Passwords: make sure that individuals use strong passwords that are not obvious, like their birthday, or the default passwords given by the devices. Never use the same password on various accounts. Moreover, never share a password with anyone.
- Keep Their Devices Up To Date: Ensure devices and applications are updated, and any antivirus/malware software is updated and operational.
- Spot Social Engineering Attempts: Everyone should be aware of how to spot attempts to steal personal and exclusive information via vishing, smishing, and phishing.
- Be Wary of Public Networks: Almost all public places, such as cafes, hotels, and airports, offer free internet connections. However, they are convenient; they may not be protected. Besides, cybercriminals will often spoof these sorts of networks. So it is essential to check that the network is reliable, and whenever possible, use a VPN connection to access or transmit data. To that end, any remote learning tools, both the front end, which is used by students, and the back end used by teachers must support SSL VPN and strong authentication. The SSL VPN lets the remote users access Web applications, client-server apps, and internal network utilities and directories without the requirement of any specialized client software.
As we employ remote learning, we need to guarantee that we practice steps ensuring to protect everyone in the network from the adversary. By taking control by following these standard security practices is one of the best ways to move us securely into this new remote learning norm effectively.